Friday, October 26, 2012

The role of science in missions

Ralph Winter was a highly influential missiologist. In 2007 he gave a paper Learn from our Mistakes to a group of Asian mission leaders. He lists various mistakes made by Western mission organisations in the twentieth century. It is worth reading in full. For now, I just post one mistake I thought was particularly interesting.
The Mistake of Assuming Science Is a Foe, Not a Friend 
When I was a young person, missionaries were showing science films 2,000 times per day in the non-Western world. The Moody Institute of Science films were shown even more widely in America. Many times in history Christian scholars have recognized that God has revealed Himself in “Two Books,” the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. As Psalm 19 indicates, the Book of Nature does not even need to be translated into the world’s languages.
Every missionary must take with him to the mission field both a microscope and a telescope if we are to properly glorify God. Even more important is the need to take to the field a true reverence for the glory of God in Creation. This requires a substantial knowledge of nature. Science is the study of God’s creativity. Art is the study of man’s creativity. 
We cannot truly expect educated people to accept Christ if our hymns in church reflect no awareness of anything discovered in nature in the last 400 years, or if our young people are being led astray by recent and superficial theories that the world is only 6,000 years old. That is an improper reading of Genesis 1:1, as well as a reckless ignoring of thousands of honest Evangelicals who are outstanding scientists.

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